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May 29, 2019

Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté cancels appearance at Kronos Festival 2019 due to visa delays

It is with great regret that the Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) announces that Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté is unable to travel to the U.S. to be part of Kronos Festival 2019 on June 1. Her cancellation is due to the U.S. Department of State’s failure to issue her required P-3 visa in a timely fashion.

Kronos Quartet, Valérie Sainte-Agathe and the San Francisco Girls Chorus will perform the world premiere of Tegere Tulon, Diabaté‘s new work for Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, as planned.

Diabaté’s work authorization was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without issue. Although she has previously traveled to the U.S. and been approved for multiple U.S. work visas in the past, the U.S. embassy in Bamako, Mali, unnecessarily chose to subject her application to the current administration’s “extreme vetting” procedure, a process that is known to indefinitely delay visa issuance.

“We are extremely disappointed that Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté will not be able to travel from Bamako to San Francisco to take part in our festival,” said KPAA Managing Director Janet Cowperthwaite. “It is deeply upsetting that such an amazing vocalist would be prevented from sharing her unique artistry here. What a missed opportunity for Kronos, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and our audiences.”

Last April, Diabaté travelled with Malian griot band Trio Da Kali to perform with Kronos as part of Kronos Festival 2018. This year, she was scheduled to workshop and rehearse her new work, which is inspired by the endangered handclapping song traditions of Malian girls, with Kronos, Sainte-Agathe and the Girls Chorus, as well as perform it with them on June 1. Kronos and Diabaté (as part of Trio Da Kali) have toured together throughout the U.S., Europe and the U.K. and released the 2018 Songlines Music Award-winning album Ladilikan on World Circuit Records. They have collaborated since 2014 when they were first brought together by Professor Lucy Durán on behalf of the Aga Khan Music Initiative as part of a decade-long institutional partnership between KPAA and AKMI.

In recent weeks, the Department of State’s DS-5535 form—introduced to enact the current administration’s “extreme vetting” initiative—is increasingly being required by consular staff at U.S. embassies in Africa. Requirement of the form is discretionary. It is typically not required of visa applicants who have proven histories of professional travel to the U.S. and of world-renowned artists who have proven histories of legal and successful touring in the U.S. When the DS-5535 form is required, as it was in the case of Diabaté, the processing time of a visa application typically increases from ten days to more than six months. Protocols for when consular staff should require the form are vague and subjective; once requested, not even congressional intervention has proven successful in expediting the processing.

In the last month alone, excessive DS-5535 processing delays have impacted, cancelled, or delayed, tours for members of Malian band Songhoy Blues, Nigerien band Tal National, Mauritania band Noura Mint Seymali, and Somalian singer Farxiya Fiska.

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